Last Sunday, ESPN’s Mike Ditka said that Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin should have punched guard Richie Incognito in the mouth. (Jeff Ireland approved this message. And Ditka previously delivered it to Saints tight end Cam Cleeland after his eye socket was crushed by a sock full of coins in a hazing ritual.)
This week, Ditka continued his attack on the man who didn’t physically attack Incognito.
“I want to say one thing,” Ditka said during ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown. “If I was the coach, I wouldn’t have either Incognito, the bully, or the baby, Martin, on my team. That’s me. [Does] that make me right? No. That makes me me. And I would stand up to that, because you don’t do what Martin did and you don’t do want Incognito did. Period.”
That’s all Dikta had to say during a discussion that featured passionate comments from Keyshawn Johnson, Cris Carter, and Tom Jackson regarding the issue of hazing/bullying in the NFL generally and the Miami situation specifically.
“The NFL locker room is a workplace,” Carter said. “And the NFL’s committed to the belief that all employees have the right to work in an environment that is free from harassment, intimidation, discrimination, racial or sexual harassment, as well as harassment related to employees based on religion, national origin, age or disability. . . . When you drive through the gate, give them your IR, you are in an active workplace. So all these ideas that [in] the locker room you can do this, that is not true. In an NFL locker room you are not allowed to act like an animal and a savage.”
Johnson addressed the question of whether Martin should have handled the problem internally.
“[T]o hear Coach Philbin say [Martin] could have come to him, no he couldn’t have,” Johnson said. “Obviously, because he didn’t. There’s a reason he checked himself into a hospital. He didn’t just decide one day, ‘Oh, you know what, I’m gonna wake up and go check myself into a hospital because I’m not feeling good.’ No, he checked himself into a hospital because he was disturbed about everything that’s been happening to him over the last year and a half, Coach.”
Jackson took issue with the effort to defend Incognito and criticize Martin.
“The locker room went to great lengths in Miami to shift this conversation from a guy being bullied to a guy being a coward,” Jackson said, a possible slap at Ditka’s characterization of Martin. “As I watched it, it was so upsetting because they are trying to hold Jonathan Martin equally culpable for what was done to him. ‘It was done to him because we had to do it. We needed to toughen this guy up.’ . . . . This is insane, and it’s going to get more insane by next week when this man again tells what was done to him for a year and a half, which is their greatest fear. ‘He’s going to tell everything we did to him.’ That’s their fear.”
Ditka remained quiet after sharing his own view that Martin is a baby. While none of the other guys specifically directed their comments at Ditka or openly disagreed with him, the tension was palpable — and it was hard not to believe that Ditka was told to watch what he said.
As to what Ditka did say, ESPN had no comment. While far more irresponsible things have been said on ESPN’s airwaves, Ditka’s insistence that Martin, who may be suffering from a real mental illness, is a “baby” represents the kind of comment that could get folks with lesser star power than Ditka removed from ESPN’s airwaves.